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‘Conspiracy theorist!’

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‘Conspiracy theorist!’: How to effectively respond to toxic labeling

REBEKAH BARNETT

The term ‘conspiracy theory’ is losing its punch due to overuse. Like other worn-out labels (racist, bigot, woke, white supremacist), it is more often than not deployed reflexively to describe any fact, fact pattern or hypothesis that the user of the label does not understand, or does not agree with.

Used in this way, labeling is toxic to the possibility of a productive conversation, tending to send interlocutors into states of smug superiority or misunderstood frustration (depending on who is using it).

It is therefore valuable to have the skills to defuse inappropriate use of toxic labels so as to bring the conversation back onto the course of building mutual understanding.

I’m going to share with you four simple techniques I used to defuse conspiracy theory labeling over the weekend, coaxing the user through his own feelings and thoughts on the subject until he voluntarily reversed his position. At no point did I suggest that he was wrong, or argue for an alternative point of view. I simply used a combination of non-judgemental questions and listening techniques, and my conversational partner reversed his conspiracy theory accusation all by himself.

The case study

Last weekend I had a conversation with a perfectly nice, normal man at a dinner party.

He learned that I work in the alt-media space. Where did I think Covid came from, he asked. A lab, I said. Yes of course, he said, but was it deliberate, or accidental?? Surprised, I said I wasn’t sure either way. I had thought the normal-sphere was still arguing over lab vs. wet market theories. He said he thought it was an accidental lab leak, as he thought it implausible that any government would go so far as to deliberately start a pandemic.

Next he asked me, what do you think of 9/11 conspiracy theories? Before I could offer a response, he immediately asnwered his own question. Conspiracy theories abound, which frustrate him to no end. His friend had gone so far as to write a book on 9/11 conspiracies (in earnest, apparently) which referenced sources from discredited conspiracy theorists, and my conversational partner was just furious that it was all bunk.

I remarked that his friend’s use of discredited conspiracy theorist sources was a shame, given the plentitude of legitimate conspiracy facts about 9/11 that his friend could have inserted into his book. These facts, being easily verifiable, would have eased the frustrations of readers such as himself.

Facts like what, my conversational partner asked. Well, like that 9/11 was used as a pretext to start a war with Iraq, along with the actual conspiracy theory that Iraq had WMDs. You know, like in the movie Fahrenheit 9/11 by Michael Moore.

At this he braced. Michael Moore! He spreads conspiracy theories!

From there, the conversation continued roughly as follows:

Me: Conspiracy theories?

Him: Yes

Me: Like what?

Him: Well, people will think that if he’s saying Iraq doesn’t have WMD’s, then neither does Iran. But Iran does have nuclear weapons, so Michael Moore is spreading this conspiracy theory and people will believe Iran doesn’t have nuclear weapons because of his movie.

Me: Iran? Why do you think Michael Moore’s audience will think Iran doesn’t have nuclear weapons? Isn’t the film about Iraq?

Him: Iraq and Iran sound similar.

Me: So you think because Iraq and Iran sound similar, Michael Moore’s audience will get the countries confused, and they’ll think a film about fake WMD charges leading to the Iraq war is really about Iran?

Him: Well, Michael Moore’s audience is from midwest America. They’re not good at geography.

Me: I’ve watched the film and to be honest, it didn’t occur to me that Michael Moore was trying to send a message about Iran. Can you draw the Iran link for me?

Him: Well, you’re not Michael Moore’s audience. You’re well read, they’re not. [We had earlier discussed my current reading list]

Me: Ok, but one more time, can you help me to understand why you think Michael Moore’s film about the Iraq war would be interpreted as a conspiracy theory that Iran doesn’t have nuclear weapons? Can you give me an example?

It turned out that my conversational partner had found Michael Moore’s comical representation of President George Bush to be spiteful and unnecessarily laboured, as Presidents are under enormous pressure and President Bush was probably doing his best.

It seems like you think Michael Moore treated George Bush unfairly, I commented.

That’s right! he said.

I can understand why you don’t like the film then, and maybe you would think Michael Moore is not credible, I said.

With that, my conversational partner nodded, sat back, and then said something quite remarkable.

‘Ok, I’ll wind back what I said about Iran. That wasn’t right.’

And then we moved on.

What just happened is that I strategically used four non-confrontational techniques to gently coax my conversational partner through the process of testing his own ideas, to the point that he discarded the one that didn’t stand up to scrutiny – namely, that Michael Moore’s audience is so dumb, they’ll think Iraq is the same as Iran because they sound sorta similar, and therefore Michael Moore is responsible for mass denial of Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

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19 COMMENTS

  1. Yesterday’s conspiracy theory is today’s fact. The conspiracist demonstrates a flair for individual thought far removed from that of one of Jacinda’s compliant sheep.

    As such I accept being designated a “conspiracy theorist” with pride.

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  2. “Conspiracy Theorist” was a propaganda slur introduced by the US government itself. Too many people began to question the governments patsy theory about the murder of Robert AND John Kennedy. To sew confusion, they filled the MSM with empty slurs, kicking off cancel culture They haven’t stopped since.

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  3. You respond to “you’re are a conspiracy theorist” with “you’re a conspiracy theorist conspiracy theorist”.

    “conspiracy theorist conspiracy theorist” – a person in a state of mental delusion and dangerously obsessed with any idea that is different to their own; And that those other people (with different ideas to theirs) have been brainwashed by some secret black SYOPS program.

    A “conspiracy theorist conspiracy theorist” is irrational, unhinged, prone to violent outbursts, will not engage in rational two way debates. They are the actual people that have been brainwashed by some secret black SYOPS program.

    Thinking about it, irrational, unhinged, prone to violent outbursts, will not engage in rational two way debates, kinda describes a ginger headed person in the public eye. The name escapes me for now.

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    • Sorry Ed; Yeah nahhh

      I doubt there was an anchor away.
      That simply does not happen unless you have a part of the crew already on standby,
      Then it still is tediously slow as ships have it all set up so the chains go through over a geared sprocket.

      Physics , of an anchor doing anything, Nahhh.
      Wind & / or currents, tides, with that quiet momentum is where it is at.
      Going so slow so no real steerage way for the rudder.

      There would be more movement if they ever had the time to get it into reverse gear, that may shift the stern out if a single prop
      If twin prop may be full on full speed & full on reverse speed can if one knows what they are doing crab a vessel along.
      However with problematic power problems that seems to be a luxury of thought.
      Needs power to also turn the rudder.

      Big ship manoeuvring just is so different to a speed boat with an outboard motor.
      The speed boat leans into the turn,
      A big ship, leans out of the turn.

      Even on a smallish ship, like an NZ fishing boat, If a man goes over board from the bow, then one should turn the boat to the same side that they guy fell from.
      That allows the stern of the boat to move away from that person, & lessens the risk of the person be sucked into or near the wash of the propeller.

      The black box, back up batteries or whatever.
      How many homes check their fire alarms to see what level their batteries are.
      Sure flashing lites look good when the power was directly on, but the batteries, or the engine generator, which should have been running all the time, but then the lights were going off.
      It is not always easy to hand the engine generator power over to another power generator, as it it must get in synch.
      It may be automated & computed these days, but computers also have those glitches.

      Many more things to be checked up on, & the real problem is that trust in the authorities are gone,.
      Were the marine surveyors lapse, negligent or paid off.
      So now we know, true independent honest with merit is gone, in favour of the DEI system.
      That was deeply entrenched last century, with hopeless affirmative action, though they were supposed to then show merit. ….. Yeah right …. as it that affirmative action mission creeped it way up the chain.

      Just as Justice Mahon found in the orchestrated litany of lies.
      With Pete Buttigieg as Transportation Secretary, the influence, that report will be very colourful rainbow of flags.

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      • ……”the real problem is that trust in the authorities are gone”…….

        It will never return because there’s no-one left who trusts the processes that appoint those who should inspire that trust.

        We’re fucked.

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    • ……”The Illuminati was formed with the vision of liberating humans from religious bondage and undermining corrupted governments”……

      In itself a noble goal though I suspect that the society became a little sidetracked.

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  4. Easter when townies drive outside city boundaries. //

    https://www.1news.co.nz/2024/03/30/police-attend-two-serious-crashes-involving-tractors-in-waikato/
    Police have responded to two serious crashes both involving tractors in the Waikato region this morning.

    Officers were called to a crash around 10.30am involving a car and a tractor on Oparure Road in Te Kuiti.

    Police confirmed emergency services responded to a second crash in Matamata involving a tractor and motorcycle shortly before 11am.

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    • It is the time of year of a lot of maize harvesting, so there are quite a few tractors with trailer plus trucks, carting to another farm.
      Plenty of flashing lights on the tractors & the trailers, often with yellow & orange & red warning hazard sign too.

      Another “call” to ban farm vehicles from the road during holiday times ? ? ?
      Or perhaps better still, ban the holiday drivers. 🙂

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      • …..”Another “call” to ban farm vehicles from the road during holiday times”……

        Nah. That’s far too real world. The people who will over-react are paid by the NZTA. Although they never move their fat female arses off an office chair they instinctively know everything there is to know about farming, transport & safety.

        As such expect a requirement for “impact attenuators” to be fitted to all farm machinery used off or on road. ie https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/98/Impact_Attenuator_In_Auckland.jpg

        The safety nazis are out of control & they are absolutely barking mad.

        You read it first at YSB!

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  5. UK farmers bring their tractors to London

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xY7D2uNLApA
    Tractors descend on Parliament over ‘betrayal’ of British farmers

    A “go-slow” convoy of more than 120 tractors made its way around Westminster as campaigners demanded action on food security.

    Farmers across the country are calling for an end to a number of post-Brexit trade deals, which they claim are allowing imports into the country that fall short of UK standards.

    3

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